At last, the snow is receding, the crocus have poked their little heads through the thawing ground, and we anxiously wait for the street sweepers to come rid our roads of all the leftover sand and salt. Spring! Rebirth, regrowth, renewed beginnings and a barren landscape to encourage back to life. Here is a Spring to do list we know will get your yard and garden back on track for the year ahead.
1) Spring Clean Up
Yes, the Spring clean up can be extensive especially if you didn’t have time to do the Fall cleanup or simply didn’t get to it before the extreme cold weather and snow hit. Whether or not you were able to do a first pass in the Fall, cleaning up the leaves and excess debris in your flower beds, garden and under trees is necessary to keep your yard free of mold and rot. Mold and rot is great for a compost pile, not so much for a garden.
Not all shrubbery should be pruned in the Spring but if items in your garden show signs of winter damage (broken or bent branches), those should be pruned regardless of plant type. Make a clean cut and your plant will heal faster and better as it emerges from dormancy. Plants that set buds on new wood should also be pruned at this time. Hydrangea are a good example of this and should be pruned now. As soon as the threat of frost is over, you can also prune your butterfly bushes and Blue Beard/Blue-mist shrubs. Make sure to look for new growth emerging on both of those before pruning. Rose pruning can also begin now. Shrub roses, climbing rose and rambling roses can all be pruned down by removing a quarter to a third of the plant while also removing dead canes.
What not to prune? Azaleas, Rhododendrons and Mountain Laurels that show winter desication. These should be pruned after they flower and although they may look dead, more often than not they aren’t.
3) Cut Back and Divide the Perennials
All perennial foliage that wasn’t cut back in the Fall needs to be cut back and removed now. Ornamental grasses should be trimmed back as soon as possible. With the increase in daylight and gradually warmer temperatures they wake up much earlier than other plants.
Now is the time to also make a list of all the perennials in your garden that need dividing. If they look crowded now, they will only look worse in the summer. Any plants that look like they are invading each other’s space or that have a bald spot in the center must be divided to promote continued good health. Tackle the worst problems now and perhaps save a few of the lesser offenders for the end of the season or next year. Some plants that often need to be divided are daylilies, iris, hostas, and grasses.
4) Plan the Spring Garden
There may be snow in parts of your yard but it’s still a good idea to begin thinking about and planning for your garden. To get the most out of your growing months, you may want to start planting as early as the end of February/beginning of March. Determining the planting time is easier when you make decisions about what you want to plant. Only plant items your family will eat and make a list of everyone’s likes. After you have a solid list and have purchased the seeds you need, figure out when your seeds need to be planted by using our handy Seed Starting Plan. The zone you live in will determine when you can plant a spring garden. Perhaps you’ve decided not to start from seed and want to buy plants. Neither is right or wrong, it’s whatever works best for you and the types of vegetables you wish to grow. Has the ground thawed out yet? You can begin to prepare garden beds or assemble raised beds. With the beds prepared, you won’t have to rush when it’s time to plant your garden.
These 4 tasks will each take quite a bit of time but are worth the effort. As the days grow longer and the weather improves, you will want to be doing more pleasant activities and enjoying your garden, not working so hard in it. Putting in the extra effort now will make for a more enjoyable summer and abundantly successful garden.